Assembly Democrats Reed Gusciora and Elizabeth Maher Muoio (both D-Mercer/Hunterdon) have introduced a legislative compromise to provide a critical lifeline to urban cities in the wake of Gov. Christie’s conditional veto of previous legislation (A-2576) they sponsored that would have extended the duration of Urban Enterprise Zones (UEZ) for an additional ten years.
The lawmakers noted that Gov. Christie’s conditional veto excised critical passages of the legislation that would have extended the UEZ designation and replaced it with a directive requiring the Commissioner of Community Affairs to conduct a study into potential alternatives to the UEZ program.
“The Governor’s conditional veto struck all provisions from the bill that would have effectuated a UEZ extension,” Gusciora explained. “This executive overreach was essentially an absolute veto. It wasn’t the same bill we sent him and it did none of the things we intended and needed it to do to continue fostering urban revitalization. I would still like to see the full ten-year extension the legislature initially approved. However, since Gov. Christie has made it clear that this is unacceptable from his perspective, we are introducing new legislation that we believe can serve as an effective compromise between the Governor and the Legislature,” Gusciora added.
“The UEZ incentive may be all that stands in the way of a company deciding to close its doors,” said Muoio. “The Governor’s veto would eliminate this critical development tool for Trenton and a number of other cities and leave a vacuum in its place while we all await a new plan from the DCA. This incentive ‘gap’ puts hundreds of businesses around the state at financial risk unnecessarily. By extending the UEZ program for two years, our new bill will provide financial certainty and stability for those companies in Trenton, Newark, Camden, Bridgeton and Plainfield while they await a new plan.”
The new legislation (A-4189), which was introduced yesterday, accepts the Governor’s recommendations that the Commissioner of Community Affairs research potential alternatives to the UEZ program and provide a report within six months. However, the bill also provides a two-year extension of the program to the five UEZs set to expire at the end of 2016.
Gusciora and Muoio both believe that this proposal represents a palatable compromise to a Governor who has proven himself hostile towards this brand of economic aid.
“We can’t just sit by and do nothing as our cities fall apart,” Gusciora concluded. “Inaction was the death knell of urban centers in our past, and it will be their undoing today, and in our future. If we don’t take concerted, proactive steps to make sure that cities have the tools necessary to lift themselves out of poverty, then how can we expect development, growth, and progress?”